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SMART Program Incentives for Solar Arrays on Farms

The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources has established the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) program, which will regulate incentives associated with new solar photovoltaic (PV) development in the state, beginning November 26, 2018. This is one of a series of fact sheets designed by UMass Clean Energy Extension to help farmers navigate the program.

Calculating Expected Incentives

​Estimating expected compensation rates for solar arrays within the SMART program can be complicated.  This worksheet can help you gather information necessary to calculate expected incentives for your specific project.

A compensation rate calculator is available through CLEAResult, which administers the SMART program for MA DOER.  Directions on how to use the calculator are available here.

General Information about Compensation Rates under the SMART Program

  • A Base Compensation Rate is set based on the capacity of the system and the local utility service area.  Over the course of the SMART program, the base rate declines by 4% for each “Capacity Block” that is filled in a given service area.  You can check http://masmartsolar.com/ to determine which Capacity Block your site is in.  Also review the Capacity Block Rate Guideline on the same website under Additional Resources, for additional details on compensation values. 
  • Small projects (≤ 25 kW) receive the highest Base Compensation Rates (in cents per kWh), but only for 10 years, compared to 20 years for larger projects.
  • Projects of all sizes can receive additional incentives (cents per kWh) depending on the end-use customer for the electricity (e.g. low-income housing) and whether on-site energy storage is incorporated into the project.
  • Larger projects (>25 kW) can receive additional incentives, depending on the location and whether the system is a fixed or tracking design.  These incentives are also subject to a 4% decrease as each “tranche” is filled.  See http://masmartsolar.com/ for more information.
  • Qualifying as Category 1 Agricultural or Category 1 Non-Agricultural will lead to the highest compensation rates for larger projects (>25 kW). 
  • If your land is currently in the Chapter 61A program, has been in the past 5 years, or is on Prime Farmland Soils, it will qualify as Agricultural for the purposes of the SMART program.  Projects on Agricultural land can qualify as Category 1 Agricultural if they 1) are building-mounted systems, 2) are sized to meet no more than 200% of on-farm demand, or 3) are dual-use systems up to 2 MW in capacity (or larger if they qualify for a waiver).
  • If your land is not in the Chapter 61A program, has not been in the past 5 years, and is not on Prime Farmland Soils, it will be considered as Non-Agricultural land under the SMART program, regardless of whether farming is occurring on the land.  Projects on Non-Agricultural land can qualify as Category 1 Non-Agricultural if they are 1) are building-mounted systems, 2) are canopy-mounted systems, or 3) are ground-mounted systems no more than 500 kW in capacity. 
  • If your proposed project is a ground-mounted system with a capacity between 500-5000 kW and it is in a solar overlay district, on previously developed land, or on an eligible brownfield or landfill, it can also qualify as Category 1 Non-Agricultural.  Otherwise, if it is on land zoned for industrial or commercial use that has not been previously developed, it qualifies as Category 2.  If it is on land that is not zoned for industrial or commercial use that has not been being previously developed, it qualifies as Category 3, as long as it is not protected open space or a wetland resource area.
  • Category 2 and 3 projects are subject to “subtractors” which reduce the compensation rate based on the acreage of land developed. 

Helpful Resources

Utility service territory map

Determining if your land has Prime Farmland Soils

You can find soil definitions for your property on the MassGIS OLIVER website using the following process:

1.      Under “Available Data Layers,” select “Physical Resources,” and then “Soils.”

2.      Select “Prime Farmland Soils,” which will add it to the list of “Active Data Layers” under “Legend.”

3.      You can then find for your property by zooming in to the Massachusetts map, or entering a street address into the “Search for a location” box.  To qualify as Prime Agricultural Farmland, the land must be in dark green – identified in the Legend as “All Areas are Prime Farmland.”

If you have difficulty with this process, please contact CEE for assistance.

Last Updated: 
May 2, 2018